Calif. prison ordered to grant murderer’s taxpayer-funded sex change surgery

Calif. prison ordered to grant murderer’s taxpayer-funded sex change surgery

Hey, even lifers have their needs. Last February, a mass murderer in a Norwegian prison threatened to go on a hunger strike unless we was given better video games. In 2013, detainees at Gitmo demanded, and were granted, removal of “infidel” treadmills from their compound.

Sometimes, prisoners’ demands arise out of physical infirmity. In 2011, a Michigan inmate sued the state for denying him access to pornography, claiming that he suffered from “chronic masturbation syndrome.”

Which brings us to the current case and a far more familiar — if not less dubious — malady.  Via the Washington Post:

In a rare move, a Northern California district court judge has directed the state to grant a transgender inmate’s sex reassignment surgery — marking a first in the state’s history. The judge said the procedure is the “only adequate” treatment for her condition.

Michelle-Lael Norsworthy, 51, was born as Jeffrey Bryan Norsworthy. In the 1990s, she started living as a woman in state prison and was later diagnosed with severe gender dysphoria, a condition in which people identify with a different gender from the one they were born with, according to court documents. California corrections officials have said she has been given proper medical care over the years, including counseling and hormone therapy, the Associated Press reported.

However, U.S. District Court Judge Jon S. Tigar in San Francisco said on Thursday that the department denied her request for sex reassignment surgery, or SRS, likely because it has a policy against approving it as a treatment for transgender inmates. He granted a preliminary injunction, telling the prison system to let her have the operation “as promptly as possible.”

“The weight of the evidence demonstrates that for Norsworthy, the only adequate medical treatment for her gender dysphoria is SRS, that the decision not to address her persistent symptoms was medically unacceptable under the circumstances, and that [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] denied her the necessary treatment for reasons unrelated to her medical need,” Tigar wrote in his ruling. Denying her the surgery, he said, would violate her constitutional rights.

The author of the piece, Lindsey Bever, omits several details from her account of this watershed moment. One is that Tigar is an Obama appointee, but that comes as no surprise. Another that might is the cost of the surgery, which could run as high as $100,000, according to California Corrections Health Care Services spokeswoman Joyce Hayhoe. A third is that the cost will be absorbed by Golden State taxpayers.

Bever does include a rebuttal of sorts by Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, who calls the cost cited a “gross exaggeration” and goes to state:

This decision confirms that it is unlawful to deny essential treatment to transgender people. The bottom line is no one should be denied the medical care they need.

But not everyone is in agreement that sex reassignment surgery is the best or smartest treatment for gender dysphoria, which some psychologists still view as a manifestation of body dysmorphic disorder, a condition that prompts some patients, for example, to believes that various of their limbs do not belong to them. This casts some doubt on whether transgender people are being “denied the medical care they need.”

There is also an argument to be made that prisoners, especially those serving life sentences, forfeit certain rights by dint of the heinousness of their crimes. In other words, the person Norsworthy murdered several decades ago isn’t available for comment.

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Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.


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